By Gill Price
All parents want the best for their children. We want them to go to well-functioning schools and get the best results so that they can be admitted to tertiary institutions. These schools not only prioritise academic achievements but also focus on the holistic development of children that includes sports, arts and cultural activities.
However, in the midst of seeking out such schools, we sometimes overlook the importance of parents’ participation and involvement in ensuring better functioning of public schools throughout the country. Unlike under apartheid, gone are the days where school governance was mainly left to the state and parents’ participation was limited due to unjust laws and education differentiated by race.
The new democratic dispensation in 1994 gave parents more power and responsibility to help government transform our education system and redress the injustices of the past. The South African Schools Act, which became effective in 1997 mandated all public schools to have School Governing Bodies (SGBs) comprising parents, learners, educators, non-teaching staff and school principals.
The Act further prescribes their roles and responsibilities of which is to create an environment conducive to teaching and learning, adopt a constitution, develop an admission policy, financial policy, language policy, draft a mission statement and adopt a code of conduct for learners. They also appoint and promote teachers and manage school facilities.
These roles are in line with our founding fathers who vowed to ensure meaningful participation of all stakeholders in policy formulation and in the education of our nation.
The next SGBs elections are expected to take place from 1 to 31 March 2024 and provides parents who have the required skills an opportunity to serve their communities. Parents should make themselves available to serve on the SGBs so that we can continue the project we started in 1994 which is broaden access to-and-help improve the quality of education.
Experience has shown that schools with efficient SGBs have a better chance at being well managed and to excel academically. The opposite is often true in schools with limited participation by community members.
This year’s elections come at a time when the country is celebrating the 30 years of freedom and democracy. The commemoration provides us with an opportunity to reflect on progress we have made since 1994 in particular the right to education. We remain resolute that we have made huge strides in ensuring that no child is denied his or her right to access basic education.
This is precisely because education plays an important role in the lives of our children. It is without a doubt a tool that can be used to uplift people out of poverty and in the words of former President Nelson Mandela, it is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.
He further said: “The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.”
Therefore, there is no better way to commemorate our democracy than to make yourselves available to serve in the SGBs so that we can build on the gains we have made since 1994. Let us use these elections to get directly involved in the education of our children and help realise the dream, which Madiba and many others stood for.
Gill Price is GCIS Director: Communication Resource Centre